UVa Medical Center CEO: Medicaid expansion crucial to continued success

Despite the uncertainties of Medicaid expansion in Virginia and how care delivery will change under the Affordable Care Act, University of Virginia Medical Center Vice President and CEO Edward Howell is confident the organization will continue to thrive, even if it means cutting back on services.

When he retires in July after 12 years of service, he will leave the facility in better shape than when he arrived, according to The Roanoke Times. Under his leadership, the organization expanded significantly, forming partnerships with other hospitals in the region, adding 100 beds to the facility, a new cancer center, transitional care hospital, a new Children's Hospital building, and nursing and medical education buildings.

Prior to Howell's arrival in 2002, the hospital's profit margin was shrinking, according to Vince Mastracco, chairman of the board. "There's a significant amount of individuals coming to UVa Medical Center indigent, without healthcare coverage. He was able to manage all that and still create a profitable organization," Mastracco told the publication.

In addition to serving as the driving force behind the expansion projects, board members said Howell raised the hospital's profile, cut inefficiencies within the organization, helped reduce patients' stays, which freed up beds and ultimately, saved the hospital money.

Darracott Vaughan, former board chairman, said that despite the changing healthcare industry climate, the medical center is in a better position to attract top talent now. "We're poised for an excellent recruitment opportunity for the new leadership," he said.

But the hospital's continued success hinges on the state expanding Medicaid, Howell told The Roanoke Times. Without it, the facility may lose $40 million a year in Medicaid expansion funding. If Virginia expands Medicaid before 2017, the hospital can thrive, he said.

Otherwise, he said the hospital will have to cut back on services in order to continue to treat uninsured and indigent patients. Cutbacks may include transportation and drug benefits for low-income patients and rolling back its education program.

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